Two-Bit Hike in School Lunch Prices Next School Year

Photo: Lunch in Belmont.

Dustin O’Brien, Belmont Public School’s Food Services director, has been a culinary whirling dervish this school year. 

The person responsible for providing nutritious meals for students that partake in the lunch offerings at the six Belmont public schools – as well as breakfast at the Belmont High – O’Brien has been leading the way in establishing innovative programs and new nutrition partnerships including taste testing new menu items, bringing in rustic breads with Iggy Breads and starting a “farm to table” initiative where locally grown produce from Belmont Acres Farm and from other growers is used in meals throughout the growing season.

According to Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan, the entire operation is self-sufficient, with the money taken in paying for the food and staff in each school.

“They don’t take a dime from the district,” Phelan told the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, May 26. 

Yet there is more than just food and personnel that makes for an efficient department. They need to outfit a working kitchen – the pots, pans, and especially the bigger items, said Phelan, “working oven and refrigerators.” 

Yet, other than the basics, O’Brien doesn’t have the extra cash on hand to do simple tasks such as haul away broken equipment from the lunch rooms. 

With the support of Phelan, O’Brien has created a capital plan for food services, “to continue to provide quality food,” said the superintendent. 

The program would be set up like a revolving capital fund, with funds appropriated to replacing and upgrading equipment along with any other need in the kitchen. 

The proposal asks the School Committee to approve a 25 cents increase for a daily meal “ticket” to bring in between $60,000 to $66,000 annually into the revolving account. 

The changes will result in the following prices for lunch beginning in the new school year in August:

  • Belmont High School: $3.50
  • Chenery Middle School: $3.25
  • Belmont’s elementary schools: $2.75

Even with the increases, Belmont school lunch prices will be in the bottom third compared to surrounding communities, said Phelan. And hopefully with new equipment, prices will remain lower due to efficiencies. 

The School Committee will decide on the fee increase at its June 9 meeting.